Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Simple Gifts Trim & Tweak Time

As of my Wednesday,  February 4, 2015 post I had eight red background blocks remaining to piece on my Simple Gifts quilt. I actually finished them up by the next day. Then, like clean folded laundry that sits for days in the basket waiting to be put away, those gift blocks sat on my design wall for most of the week, waiting to be trimmed.

There is nothing like a WIP post to spur progress. Yesterday I corrected the pressing direction on the seam at the base of the gifts for the green and aqua blocks. I also trimmed the blocks square – rectangular, to be more precise – but not necessarily the same size just yet. Trimming to uniform size is for this week, as is the arrangement for assembly. And look! This is a pile of scraps I am not going to save and will not try to repurpose.

I show this photo just to prove I really trashed them, and because it is a kind of funky view into my smooth, tapered trash can.

I have struggled with the fabric selections from this kit since I started it back in my January 14, 2015 post. I love the colors and I love the pattern and I have loved the uniqueness of the stack-and-whack approach to cutting it out and piecing the blocks. But, I cannot seem to make the busy-ness go away so the wrapped packages will pop. So I have come up with my list of hopes or, at least, if those hopes are dashed, some proposed methods of highlighting those gifts. (This quilt is becoming less and less simple as I go on.)

Fix it list:

  1. As I trim the blocks and set them closer, without the white space of the design wall showing out between them, there will be less distraction to the eye from those gaps.
  2. As I set different color backgrounds adjacent to each other, a block unit, and hence a gift, will be better defined.
  3. As I join the blocks some background will be taking up in the seam allowance making more gift and less background per block.
  4. As I arrange the blocks for assembly, I am putting the larger background pieces of the more distracting, graphic fabrics – like those red and white stripes and those white rings on red – to the outer edges and away from the center, so the eye is not pulled to them first.
  5. I plan to stitch in the ditch around each gift and echo that quilting several times. I am not sure if matching the thread to the background or keeping a consistent neutral color throughout will be better. My goal is to add texture without more visual distraction and I am not sure which is the better alternative.
  6. I am enjoying making this quilt and I always say it is process and not product. I could just luxuriate in the colors I love and chill out about the whole "gifts do not pop" issue. After all, shouldn't gifts remain hidden until Christmas?

Here are all the blocks, with the excess cut off so they are rectangles. After I find the smallest block I will trim them all to the same size. For a wonky technique they are surprisingly close in size when I compare one to another. I will play with the arrangement. This photo is just a start.

I realize I cannot just logically do a sequence of red, aqua, green and repeat it because sometimes a gift is dominant and sometimes the background is dominant. It is some sort of balance I am shooting for. For example, this red background block has two large pieces of adjacent highly graphic prints so I will try to soften it by placing it in the upper right corner.

And this one will go along the right side edge.

This one has the gift pretty well-defined so I will put it somewhere in the center. True, the two left corners are a multi-color print, but I think they are a bit more subtle and quieter than those brassy red and white shouters in the previous two blocks. Those graphics are fun but in small doses, please. These loosey-goosey, ill-defined decisions are hard for me but I will rise to the challenge.

Here is my thinking now for a quilting pattern. I am playing around a bit in PowerPoint to decide. I suppose I could just stipple around between the gifts but I do not want something too dense. I want this quilt to drape over me nicely when I use it so I would space out those echo lines by at least  ½".

My backing is already selected. I bought it at the time I bought the kit. I have not decided the binding though. Perhaps a scrappy binding would be a good use for the leftovers from the gift blocks. Each gift started out from an 12" x 18" rectangle cut from a fat quarter so I have thirty pieces of side edge fabric left over, roughly 7" x 22" each. Here are my three stack of ten fabrics each.

I can cut a strip off each and join as a binding. There are twenty-two block edges around the outside of the five-block by six-block quilt. Having extra leftover fabric gives me the freedom to omit very graphic prints and directional ones in the binding. It also means more scraps. Grrr...

That's it for my progress this week. Linking up to this week's Freshly Pieced's WIP.


  1. Love it! Love the turquoise added to the usual green and red, really like the shape of the present… This is going to be so cute!

    1. Thank you for the words of encouragement. They are needed and appreciated at this stage of the project! I too love the color palette. It is just a matter of making it work.

  2. A conundrum indeed! It will be interesting to see how you finally resolve it. (visiting from WIP Wednesday)

    1. I, too, am interested in how I will solve it! Thanks for visiting.

  3. These are great blocks, and I love the colors you chose. I also LOVE your comparison of blocks on the design wall to that pile of clean and folded laundry that NEVER seems to make it into the drawer.

    1. Yes, I love the colors, too. It is a bit of a bummer that they get muddled together in the playing. But thanks for visiting. And yes, that laundry comment is my attempt at inserting humor so glad you liked it.

  4. I love it! I like the business, a lot. Nice pile of trimmings!

    1. There will be more trimming as I equalize the block sizes.Yes, I am succumbing to good but tedious quilting practices. I think the "busy-ness" can be toned down a bit but for the most part it is here to stay. Thanks for commenting.

  5. "There is nothing like a WIP post to spur progress."
    Ha! Me too! Or at least, that used to be the case for me when I was doing more sewing.

    "But, I cannot seem to make the busy-ness go away so the wrapped packages will pop."
    I think this might be an inherent problem with the stack & whack method; unless you're willing to go through and throw away, say the highest-saturation pieces from your background piles and the lowest-saturation pieces from your presents, by definition the whole quilt is going to have more or less the same value, hue, set of tints, and color saturation. You might get any interesting effect by sorting the blocks into "present pops" and "background pops" and then trying to transition/fade one from one into the other, giving the illusion that the presents fade into the background as you look from right to left, or something to that effect. OR just accept that even with everything more or less the same visual weight, it's still a fun quilt, and you can lay it on a contrasting piece of furniture to get the overall "pop" you're craving.

    1. You may very well be right that you can not expect order when you practice random. I am glad I at least pre-planned wrapping paper fabric and ribbon fabric combinations. If I do this again I will pre-plan background as well.